Deputy to receive award from U.S. sheriffs group

April 28, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Rodney Stem has received plenty of accolades during his 18-year career. But in June, he'll become the only Marylander to win the national Deputy of the Year award from the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA).

Although it was his part in aiding a Maryland state trooper in October 1992 that brought national attention, those who know Sergeant Stem say it's his work in the department and the community that make him standout.

"He's been a leader in rebuilding the morale of this department and rebuilding trust in the community. His work speaks for itself," said Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo, who nominated his deputy for the national award that will be presented in Pittsburgh June 12.

A civil section supervisor, Sergeant Stem oversees 15 deputies in Howard's sheriff's office, which provides security for county courts and serves legal papers. A member of the Governor's Racial, Religious and Ethnic Intimidation Advisory Committee since 1990, the deputy coordinates in-service training for the sheriff's department and teaches human relations at the Howard County Police Academy.

Sergeant Stem was chosen from about 50 nominees from around the country, said officials at the Alexandria, Va.-based sheriff's association.

"It's not about a bunch of people in the wild West," said Dean Moser, an association spokesman. "It's a high-caliber award for actions above the call of duty."

Sergeant Stem's finest hour was Oct. 28, 1992, when he and Howard County police Officer Bruce Lohr were returning from a seminar on hatred and bias in Delaware. The two were driving south on Interstate 95 in Harford County, the deputy said, when they saw an unmarked state police car parked behind a pickup truck on the roadside.

They spotted two men wrestling in the median with a state trooper for his gun. Officer Lohr and Sergeant Stem pulled over, left their car with guns drawn and subdued the two assailants.

"I'll never forget that," Sergeant Stem said. "We just happened to go out at the right time and right place. A minute earlier or later would have been too late."

The action has brought more Sergeant Stem more than a dozen awards, including Deputy of the Year notice by the Maryland Sheriffs' Association last fall and a similar award by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce last April.

"In this day and age, law enforcement officers are under a lot of pressure," said George Manis, executive director of the MSA. "The sergeant has been chosen as a role model for his peers. They couldn't have picked a better person."

Earlier this month, Sergeant Stem was one of 80 law enforcement officers from around the country to receive presidential commendation certificates at a ceremony to highlight President Clinton's new crime bill.

He said a photo of him shaking hands with the president will soon be included among his other honors.

The deputy has been lecturing on hate-bias in criminal justice classes at Howard Community College for four years. He and Officer Lohr tour county schools, teaching human values and toleration of differences.

"I try to tell the kids, whatever they do, be the best you can be," Sergeant Stem said. "I always believe I should make my community better by the end of the shift than what it was when I started."

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